Spongata di Natale – Italian Christmas cake

5 hours



  • 1kg mixed nuts
  • 1kg acacia honey
  • 200g of breadcrumbs
  • 200g of raisins
  • 150g of pine nuts, roughly chopped
  • 100g of candied citron, finely chopped
  • 10g of cloves, or to taste
  • 1/3 nutmeg, or to taste
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • dry white wine, enough to cover the raisins
  • 1 pinch of salt


  • 1kg 00 flour
  • 400g of unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 400g of sugar
  • 200ml of dry white wine
  • 1 pinch of salt


  • icing sugar


Preheat an oven to 180°C/gas mark 4
Begin by making the filling. Arrange the breadcrumbs in an even layer on a baking sheet and toast in the oven until golden and very dry, for about 20 minutes. Cool and set aside – turn off the oven
Put the raisins in a medium bowl and add enough dry white wine to cover. Leave at room temperature for a few hours to rehydrate the raisins. If you would like to speed this process up, you can warm the wine first and soak the raisins for about 1 hour instead. Set aside
Grind the cinnamon stick and whole cloves to a powder in a coffee grinder or spice grinder. Finely grate the whole nutmeg. Set aside
Gently warm the honey to lukewarm in a saucepan over a low heat
Put the chopped nuts in a large bowl. Add the breadcrumbs and mix thoroughly with the nuts, kneading the mixture together so it is fully blended
Drain the raisins and use your hands to squeeze out any excess moisture, then add to the nut and breadcrumb mixture and mix very well as before
Add the rest of the filling ingredients, in the following order, kneading the mixture together after each addition: honey, pine nuts, candied citron, spices and salt. Taste the mixture and adjust the seasonings to taste
When ready, the mixture should be sticky and very thick. Cover and leave to rest at room temperature for 3–4 days to allow all the flavours to amalgamate
To make the dough, heap the flour into a pile on a large work surface and make a deep well in the middle
Pour in the sugar, sprinkle in the salt and add the softened butter. Start to knead the mixture together, gently pulling in flour from the sides of the well as you mix
When the mixture has come together start adding the wine, a little at a time, kneading as you go. Continue to knead until all the ingredients are fully blended and the dough is smooth, shiny and supple, for at least 10 minutes. Shape into a round, even ball – the dough does not need to rest
To assemble, divide the filling into 200g portions and roll each portion into a loose ball with your hands. Set aside
Slice off a piece of dough, as if you are cutting a loaf of bread, covering the remaining dough with cling film to stop it drying out. Lightly dust a clean work surface with flour and roll out the piece of dough 1–2mm thick
Cut out rounds of the dough, about 25cm wide – a metal saucepan lid is a good tool for this
Press 1 of the filling balls into a rough disc and lay in the middle of 1 dough round. Press out the filling into a flat, even circle that covers most of the dough, leaving a clear 3cm band around the edge
Cover with another dough round. Gently roll over the cake a couple of times with a rolling pin, evening it out and removing any bubbles. Use your fingers to seal the dough edge, pressing out any air. Using a fluted pastry wheel, cut around the edge, as close to the filling as possible without cutting through the dough seal. Pierce the top layer of dough several times with a fork
Lay the spongata on baking paper and loosely cover with cling film to stop it drying out as you make the rest of the cakes
Repeat with the rest of the dough and filling
When you're ready to bake, preheat the oven to 200°C/gas mark 5
Bake the spongata (you will have to cook them in batches) for 15–20 minutes, until lightly golden – any longer and the filling will become to dry
Cool on a wire rack. When the spongata have completely cooled, dust with icing sugar